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Louisiana History Day Teachers of the Year

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Amy Vines from Winnfield High School and Carla DiStefano from St. Bernard Parish Schools are the winners of the 2012 Patricia Behring Louisiana History Day Teacher of the Year. Ms. Vines and Ms. DiStefano will each receive $500, and they will be entered into a national competition for a $10,000 prize. Each will represent Louisiana at the National History Day Contest in College Park, MD.


Ms. Vines teaches English I and Journey to Careers at Winnfield High School in Winnfield, LA. Ms. Vines credits National History Day with instilling in her students the lessons of “will-power, tolerance, failure and success” as well as overcoming “insecurity, doubt, and fear.” She began the program with six ninth-grade-students from difficult backgrounds and watched them grow as they began to expand their boundaries beyond their home town.

Each of Ms. Vines’ students selected a World War II topic as it allowed her to fulfill the non-fiction requirements of her English I class. Projects focused on Iwo Jima, the Holocaust, the Bataan Death March, and prisoner of war camps. She reports that her students became deeply involved with their topics, imagining being a 20-year-old Marine on Iwo Jima, a child hiding from Nazis, or struggling to survive a cruel death march.

At the Louisiana History Day State Contest, one of Ms. Vines’ students, Sarah Elliot, advanced to the National History Day Contest with her research paper, “The Children of the Holocaust.” Another finished third, just missing the cut for national qualifying. Based on their progress and growth, it is clear that they were all winners.

Ms. DiStefano teaches gifted students at three middle schools in St. Bernard Parish: N.P. Trist Middle School, Andrew Jackson Middle School, and St. Bernard Middle School. She began the year by using National History day to expand the learning opportunities available to her students. She wanted them to become immersed in a project and be able to appreciate the deep learning that comes from a self-directed research topic.

Ms. DiStefano’s students chose a wide variety of local, national, and international topics. Ms. DiStefano reports learning a great deal from her students on these topics. From the Cultural Revolution in China to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire to the desegregation of New Orleans Public Schools, Ms. DiStefano reported learning the significance of events through the eyes of children.

A project on Ruby Bridges and the desegregation of New Orleans Public Schools especially touched Ms. DiStefano. Seeing the images of protesters crowding the streets and sidewalks in front of the school and then looking at the same building today left a deep impression on her. She also credits NHD with increasing parental involvement. Parents became immersed in the work being done by their students. Almost every parent accompanied the students to the State Contest to support the work.

At the State Contest, four of Ms. DiStefano’s students advanced to the National Contest: Brandon Rodriguez for his web site “Curt Flood: A Free Agent, Aroosa Cheema for her exhibit “The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire,” Meghan St. Angelo for her performance, “Treblinka: Revolt or Death,” and Kim Tran for her research paper, “China: The Cultural Revolution.”

The Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award recognizes outstanding NHD teachers. Two teachers from each state who display a strong commitment to their students and develop and use creative teaching methods are rewarded with $500 and receive a chance at a $10,000 national prize.

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